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Xanthan Gum

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What is it?

Produced from the fermentation of corn sugar, xanthan gum helps improve the viscosity of doughs and batters. It improves the texture of baked goods, giving them a pleasing “mouth feel.” Xanthan gum also helps hold baked goods together and gives them more elasticity. Baked goods containing xanthan gum retain more moisture, are less crumbly after they cool, and have a longer shelf life.

Xanthan (pronounced ZAN-thin) gum has long been used as a thickener or stabilizer in the countless canned soups, sauces, and salad dressings that line supermarket shelves. Xanthan gum helps improve the viscosity of doughs and batters, improves the texture of baked goods, giving them a pleasing “mouth feel,” andalso helps hold baked goods together and gives them more elasticity.

Discovered in the 1950s by USDA scientists, xanthan gum is a natural byproduct of the fermentation of beneficial vegetable bacteria that’s gelled, dried, and then ground into a powder. Thanks to a surge in interest in gluten-free cooking, as well the trickle-down effect from professional chefs who’ve adopted xanthan gum for use in their restaurant kitchens, it’s now readily available to home cooks.

Don’t have it?

You may substitute with an equal amount of guar gum, if you prefer.

How to choose:

Look for it in the baking section of your supermarket, at health-food stores, or online.

How to prep:

Xanthan gum becomes sticky when wet, so always thoroughly blend it into the dry ingredients before combining with the liquid ingredients.

Photo courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill

How to store:

It will last about a year in the pantry or longer if refrigerated.

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